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A Greener House - Salvador Dali in a lawn chair.
I'm invisible without 3D glasses.
lost_angel
lost_angel
A Greener House
Here are a list of changes we have made both recently and over the last five years to make our house and our way of life more "green". Some changes have been successful; others have been difficult.

Recent changes
1. Stopped buying paper plates, solo cups, or plastic utensils.
In my kitchen the following conversation can be heard at least once every party:

"Ginger, where do you keep the paper plates?"
"Don't have any. Use a real one!"

I made this decision deliberately because water is renewable, but most of the paper in landfills isn't breaking down due to an absence of necessary oxygen within the layers of trash. We have a dishwasher and microwave-safe, dishwasher-safe dishes and glasses, which makes this choice a lot easier for us than it would be for other people without such conveniences. There is slightly more work involved, but I consider that work to be minimal. We try to make sure that the dishwasher is empty before guests arrive so that dishes can go directly in the washer. We use our standard dishes outside for barbecues, and now all of our gatherings, from the most humble movie night to the most glamorous cocktail party, are just a bit more sparkly. I've noticed that just this little extra touch seems to make people feel like the event was even more memorable.

2. Rarely use paper towels.
All I ever use paper towels for anymore is to drain fried food. I do all my cleaning with real fabric towels and rags that can be thrown directly in the clothes washer. I figure that if soap and hot water are good enough for dealing with raw meat germs on my hands and utensils, it's good enough for my towels.

3. Switched to canvas shopping bags.
This is a new change, but one I'd been wanting to do for at least two years since birdofparadox and glover made their own. We bought these and these because they are (mostly) logo-free and I feel comfortable taking them into any store. It's great. The bags hold so much more than plastic bags and are easier to carry. The only draw back is the occasional grumbling by other customers behind us in line when the bagging clerks take a bit longer to load everything up. I also have to remember to return the bags to my car after unloading, but we've started to get into a regular routine of leaving them by the door so we can grab them on the way out next. Soon it'll be second-nature.

4. Switched (somewhat) to rechargeable AA and AAA batteries.
This switch hasn't been entirely successful. Our current batch of rechargeable batteries don't hold their charges for very long, but we're in the process of buying better quality models that have nearly a 40% greater charge retention. There are only two places that I refuse to use rechargeable batteries, a. smoke detectors, and b. my vibrators. My body can tell a significant difference between rechargeable batteries and regular ones, but my television remotes can't. In fact, my little lipstick clit vibe is the most accurate test for how much charge a battery has left in it. So when I've sucked most of the juice out of our standard, non-rechargeable batteries, I move them to the living room for use in our remote controls. There's your dose of TMI for the day. :) Anything else in the house (computer mice, wireless keyboards, flashlights, non-intimate toys) are filled with rechargeable batteries.

5.Installed a tankless water heater.
This decision was sped up by the untimely death of our old water heater. We dealt with diminishing hot water and shorter and shorter showers over the course of eight months until we were down to 1-2 minute showers. So we spent the extra money and had our plumber put in a gas-powered Rheem tankless water heater. If you're getting a tankless heater, gas is really your only option; electric tankless models simply can't heat the water quickly enough and are terrible. Since the installation, our power bill is noticeably less than baseline, but we've found that our water bill is higher. Because the Rheem heats water on the fly when you turn on the faucet, it takes a little longer for the hot water to reach you and thus we have to run the water slightly longer each time we need hot water, whether it's for a long shower for a 5-second dish rinse.

6. Started recycling cans.
This may sound like an obvious change, but it's really really difficult to recycle when you live in a small town. There is no curb-side pick-up except for a few neighborhoods in Oxford and the recycling center is only open for six hours a day. We tried recycling several times with little success in habit-change. Now that we live 30 miles away in Water Valley, recycling is practically impossible.

However, there is an hunched, ancient man who lives around the corner who collects aluminum cans, recycles them, and donates the money to a mission fund at his church. He keeps a big wooden trough in his front yard for people to drop their cans into. In my world-view, missions can be both helpful and destructive to the cultures they wish to convert, so I honestly don't care to support their missions. But since I do support recycling, I figure we can both find something positive in this arrangement. Therefore, we've started giving our cans to this old fellow.

8. Stopped keeping the air conditioning set to 65 degrees.
Jimmy is a polar bear. This has been a very difficult change. Since we put the efficient central heating and air system in the house last June, we've been slowly training ourselves to keep the a/c closer to 70 or 72 degrees and to reach for the fan before the thermostat. It helps too that we've bought Jimmy some new shorts, so that he has something cooler to wear than his default house pants. Also, my guilt about keeping the temperature still lower than most people is somewhat alleviated by the fact that our region uses hydroelectric power from Tenn-Tom.

Older Changes Made in the Last Five Years
9. We don't use single-serving plastic water bottles or keep them in the house.
In fact, our water in Water Valley, MS, is so tasty that we don't even filter the water from the tap (but we could if we wished). We just use carry-sized, dishwasher safe, insulated jugs. I prefer these anyhow since the ice in the jug keeps my water chilly for nearly six hours. The only time we use disposable bottles is if we've stopped at a gas station on long road trips.

10. Switched (almost exclusively) to compact fluorescent bulbs.
We made this switch over five years ago, but with all of the renovations that we have made to the house, I've noticed recently that there are a great many more bulb options than there were just one year ago. I refuse to buy new fans or light fixtures that can't accommodate (both in socket size and overall bulb size) CFL bulbs. Recently I found candelabra (small socket, decorator-style) CFL bulbs which allows us to use them in some fixtures (dining room, some fans) that until now we'd had to use standard incandescent or halogen bulbs in. I've discovered and purchased a three-way CFL lamp bulb, but it seemed to only have one level of light in the lamps that I thought were three-way. So I've given the bulb to Liz to test.

Tags: , ,
Current Location: Water Valley, MS
mood: yawn!

18 Voices in a Chorus | Lift Your Voice Aloft
Comments
alcamar From: alcamar Date: May 16th, 2008 01:36 pm (UTC) (link)
I've tried using the rechargeable batteries at home, but it seems that if I leave them in the charger, forgetting to take them out when they're done, that they're dead when I want to go use them. They're fine if I take them out in time and just have them sitting in whatever device, but leave them in the charger and they will drain.
Course, I myself don't have a vibrator, so things like that wouldn't really be noticeable to me :)


Sorta on topic, I sent this to jimmy, but I figure since you've got this post, I could post it here for you and anyone else that might see it....

http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/content/nov2006/id20061108_116412.htm?campaign_id=bier_innv.g3a.rss1109c

Basically "Smog eating concrete" converts air pollutants into cleaner air. I donno what pollutants exactly, but they said areas they put this in had a 60% change in air quality.
They also have some sorta paint, that is a little, but not much, more expensive than normal paint would be. I know air quality isn't that big a deal in the valley, but still...
lost_angel From: lost_angel Date: May 16th, 2008 09:01 pm (UTC) (link)
Wow! That is so interesting. The only thing that we'd use concrete for the the coming years would be digging footers for the deck, which would put the concrete underground and bricked over in the exposed areas. We could also repour the walkway up to the front door, so that's an option, too.
jopasm From: jopasm Date: May 17th, 2008 01:13 am (UTC) (link)
About the batteries - check out the new generation of non-self-discharging NIMH batteries. Sanyo Eneloops and Rayovac hybrids are a couple of brand names. Basically they combine the shelf life and ready-to-go-ness of alkaline w/ the rechargeable capabilities of NIMH. It's what I use in everything - digital cameras, GPS, and voice recorder, these days. I keep alkalines on hand as emergency spares in case I burn through all the rechargeables, but it's made a difference - I spent $20 up front for AA batts for my camera, that's probably saved me a good bit over buying alkalines every week!
alcamar From: alcamar Date: May 17th, 2008 02:54 am (UTC) (link)
Yeah, I don't use batteries really all that much. Remotes, my wiimotes, and that's about it. If I just remember to take them off before they drain, they last nearly forever anyways(low drain, all that). I don't use my camera much, and that's really the only high drain usage that I'd get.

But next time I am in the market for batteries, I will check them out. Thanks.
lost_angel From: lost_angel Date: May 17th, 2008 07:01 am (UTC) (link)
There was a great review I read online (a negative review for Energizer batteries, actually) that recommended the new Rayovac hybrids. In fact, that's the kind I told Jimmy about and that we are discussing buying. I am glad to hear some confirmation by someone I know. :)

Hope you're doing well!
jopasm From: jopasm Date: May 17th, 2008 09:42 pm (UTC) (link)
I'm doing pretty good, been in the news for a couple of small projects, learning to play nice with mayors and town managers, and all sorts of good stuff.

Don't know when I'll make it home, but I'll let you guys know next time I'm in the neighborhood.
birdofparadox From: birdofparadox Date: May 16th, 2008 03:10 pm (UTC) (link)
See, I just sacrifice the convenience of portable vibes, and stick to plugin models.
lost_angel From: lost_angel Date: May 16th, 2008 09:02 pm (UTC) (link)
I have never owned one that plugs in, but now I want one :)
birdofparadox From: birdofparadox Date: May 16th, 2008 09:15 pm (UTC) (link)
The only downswing is when you're bored out of your skull AND the power's off.

white_dandelion From: white_dandelion Date: May 16th, 2008 09:19 pm (UTC) (link)
Sorry... just had to chuckle at that.

Also I never really thought about a plug in before. Never seen one. It would make car trips and international travel/living interesting.

Maybe a battery op backup would be in order... for those real emergencies. hehe
white_dandelion From: white_dandelion Date: May 16th, 2008 09:11 pm (UTC) (link)
I think it is awesome home much you've been able to do to conserve and be green! Ever since living in Germany I've been a whole lot more aware of our garbage. We Recycled practically everything. Moving back to the states made me realize how much we don't do over here in the US. Here they accept only Plastics 1 & 2, Food and drink cans, and paper for recycling.

I applaud your efforts to recycle even if it is a bit more difficult. We just bought a wall mounted can crusher so we can better fit our recycling into the bin.

I've been seeing more and more people with re-useable shopping bags, much more than when we left the states 5 years ago. I have a collapsable shopping basket that I love taking places. People always ask about it and I've never had the *sighs* of people behind me being grummbly about a minute or two extra load time.

If and when we ever do buy a house... I'd love to have a tankless hot water system. Thanks for the info about electric vs. gas!
lost_angel From: lost_angel Date: May 16th, 2008 10:45 pm (UTC) (link)
I get super angry any time I think about how forward thinking most Americans think our country is and they don't realize how far behind we are compared to Europe in recycling, energy conservation, health care availability, education, and even internet connection availability. I love my country, but I want Americans to constantly improve ourselves and our country, to be proud of what we can continue to attain rather than what we used to be and erroneously still think we are.

People have never audibly grumbled in the shopping line, but I often look back and see their very weary faces and strained patience. I do also hear the occasional sigh. What does your collapsible shopping basket look like? I don't think I've ever seen one.

Another thing to note about a tankless water heater is that it also doesn't get the water to the same temperature all year long as a tank system does. The heating mechanism can only heat the water on the fly a certain number of degrees above ground temperature, so in the summer the water can get much hotter but during the winter, it's still hot, mind you, but not as hot as I like it for my showers. However, this is easily fixed by just running the hot water with little to no cold in the stream while in the bathtub.

But so far the tankless has kept its promise of being able to run simultaneous hot water streams at different points in the house without a change in temperature. We do get a momentary change in water pressure when another hot faucet is turned on, but the temperature remains constant.

We've only had the water heater since this past winter, so we're still monitoring its performance and will have a more thorough review of it after another six months.
white_dandelion From: white_dandelion Date: May 17th, 2008 05:24 pm (UTC) (link)
Here is my old basket... retired for use around the house because it's mostly worn out. It has one Handle and no zipper top.
http://i96.photobucket.com/albums/l175/white_dandelion/100_3184.jpg
http://i96.photobucket.com/albums/l175/white_dandelion/100_3185.jpg

Here is one of my newer ones. It has two handles and a zipper top.
http://i96.photobucket.com/albums/l175/white_dandelion/P1030131.jpg
http://i96.photobucket.com/albums/l175/white_dandelion/P1030132.jpg
http://i96.photobucket.com/albums/l175/white_dandelion/P1030133.jpg
http://i96.photobucket.com/albums/l175/white_dandelion/P1030134.jpg

I have 2 more of the same, two handled style with zipper top, that are insulated for transport of cold things. One red and one blue.

Something else I wish the US would do efficiently and effectively is Public Transport... especially a city to city train service. But that just isn't going to happen.

lost_angel From: lost_angel Date: May 17th, 2008 09:38 pm (UTC) (link)
Those baskets are awesome. It seems like it would be pretty easy to handle despite the bulk and unloading the car would certainly go faster! Do you leave the baskets collapsed in your shopping buggy until you reach the checkout counter or do you load them up as you go? If you're at a farmers' market, I suppose you just need one to heft around.

I have frequently been wishful of a reliable, timely city-to-city public transit. Amtrak, while a fun experience, is not efficient or dependable or even that affordable, really. But I think, outside of dense metropolitan areas, our country is too big and most of our cities too spread out to implement such a system.
white_dandelion From: white_dandelion Date: May 17th, 2008 10:51 pm (UTC) (link)
Normally I will put it in the cart at the end, not collapsed. Or if I know I'm getting just a few things I'll shop in the store with it like you would one of the plastic store handbaskets. No one has ever questioned me about it... yet. At Whole Foods I use the Store's handbasket cart thingy and my baskets fit just perfect in there.

All of them came from Germany... where you have to pay for plastic sacks if you want them. Most people use handbaskets or Klappboxes.
http://i96.photobucket.com/albums/l175/white_dandelion/kaufladenbox.jpg
Klappboxes also fold down and are about an inch and a half thick when collapsed. I have a couple of the "industrial" grade ones that I got at the hardware store. They are rated to 25 Kilos... about 55 Pounds. I've never had one break. They also stack nicely.

Most stores also sell their own version of the re-useable shopping bag/tote. We have quite a few cloth totes and a couple of the re-useable plastic totes from many different stores. My favorites are the ones that have a city scene in brown of the city where it was bought.... I kind of have a collection. hehe. I'll have to take a picture of some.
lost_angel From: lost_angel Date: May 18th, 2008 09:32 am (UTC) (link)
Thank you for posting all these pictures. I'm so glad to learn about the range of bins and baskets that are available to me. I showed them all to Jimmy. If we upgrade from our canvas bags, these may suit us even better.
jopasm From: jopasm Date: May 18th, 2008 05:54 am (UTC) (link)
My current public transportation fantasy is for the Feds to let Amtrak die already (don't start yelling yet), require every state to implement a public transit system, preferably some form of light rail using existing lines and re-activating retired railroad right-of-ways (excluding as many of the rails-to-trails ones possible), and linking dispersal of highway funding (which is the "big stick" the Feds have over state transportation systems) to the implementation of these systems. No more whining about "but it'll mean that those poor/black/latino/whatever people can get to my shiny white suburb".

Once that's done, resurrect Amtrak to what it really should be - an interstate transit system linking a few central hubs, but hopefully more than it links nows. It's more than a little silly that to get from Rocky Mount, NC (the nearest Amtrak station) to St. Louis MO I have to take a train to Washington DC, from DC to Chicago, and then from Chicago to St. Louis instead of straight from DC to St. Louis. Memphis is the same. To get to Amherst, MA, I have to go from Rocky Mount, to DC, to New York, to Amherst. Makes sense, right? Except that the connecting trains miss each other by *5 minutes* in New York. It's cheaper to fly in and take a 40 minute shuttle ride than to take the train!

Alright. Enough of my tired rambling ranting about Amtrak. I just really wish we had an effective public transportation system on the state and nation wide scale.
lost_angel From: lost_angel Date: May 18th, 2008 09:40 am (UTC) (link)
The largest issue when I last rode Amtrak in the summer of 1998 was that we never made it anywhere on time. The train never picked us up on time and we were always at least an hour later than even our start time when we finally arrived at our destination or connecting train. One segment of our trip, a chunk of people including us had deboard a couple hours early (Amtrak arranged all of this), get on a charter bus, and drive five-six extra hours to catch the train we'd missed. The reason Amtrak was so late was because we always had to give way to a freight train since the freight company owns the lines (I think). And of course, the later we were, the more freight trains (that actually followed their schedule) that we interfered with.

More direct routes would make it better and more viable, I agree. I would love to see your fantasy come true.
18 Voices in a Chorus | Lift Your Voice Aloft